Malaysian diplomats told to improve language skills

March 25th, 2008 - 2:34 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, March 25 (IANS) Citing Indian and Chinese diplomats’ fluency in languages while conducting negotiations, Malaysia’s new foreign minister wants his diplomatic corps to improve their language and negotiating skills too. Rais Yatim said he specially wanted his staff to brush up their English and Mandarin.

“We must set up a team specially skilled in various languages and who can negotiate in these different tongues. They must also be fluent and sound convincing when speaking at the international level,” said Yatim, who returned to the foreign office after two decades, when he was foreign minister for a brief eight months.

“Our diplomatic staff will need to pursue these languages professionally, particularly Mandarin, which is vital in Asia,” he told the media Monday.

“Having diplomatic teams skilled in English, for instance, would certainly help Malaysia’s cause during negotiations at the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and other international meetings,” the minister was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper Tuesday.

In countries like India, China, the US and Britain, diplomats fluent in foreign languages were considered “outstanding”.

“We will propose that diplomatic staff who have attained such skills be given encouragement and for this to be reflected in their salary scheme,” Yatim said.

He called for a revival of the ‘Friends of Malaysia’ group, a gathering of high-ranking people in trade, culture and other fields residing abroad who could reflect Malaysia’s interests in the global arena, New Straits Times reported.

“We want more person-to-person linkages, real relationships and not official ones only. One way to do this is through the Friends of Malaysia group, especially with Singapore and Indonesia,” the minister said.

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